How Are God and Jesus the Same, but Different?
It can be a confusing question when asked — are God and Jesus the same person? On one hand, many of us know that God comprises the Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit. The Father is God, Jesus the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, all co-existing as one perfect Almighty and All-Powerful God in a beautiful, synchronous mystery.
We can understand this merged three-in-one concept by looking at the wording of Genesis 1:26, when God said, “Let us make mankind in our image.” The “our” here represents the collective God being, one in nature but comprising three different persons.
But God and Jesus are also separate beings in that Jesus is the Son and God is the Father. As persons of the Trinity, they are separate, yet with the Holy Spirit, they are united and interdependent.
I like to think of the Celtic trinity knot, also called the triquetra, to wrap my mind around this. The triquetra features three pointed ovals, all interlaced and made from one continuous line, said to represent eternity. The central oval points up (representing God the Father), while the other two (representing Jesus and the Holy Spirit) sit on either side of it, pointing down and to the sides. While you can clearly see three distinct elements or points, they are all connected in one constantly flowing line and create one symbol, thereby symbolizing God’s Triune nature.
But if they are part of the same, how are God and Jesus separate? Let’s take a look at what the Bible says about God, Jesus, and their sameness and separateness.
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What Does the Bible Say about God?
God is described as “the Father” in many places throughout Scripture, and many people think of God as male. Jesus called God his “Father” and referred to God as “He” and “Him” during his time on earth. But in truth, God is the Great I Am and the Almighty, creator of the universe and all that is within it, and is therefore bigger than gender or other human constraints we try to give him. Still, I refer to God as my “father,” for it is helpful to me.
In fact, in Isaiah 66:13, God compares his tender love and care to that of a mother, noting, “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” And in Job 38, God compares himself both to a father and a mother, asking, “Does the rain have a father? Who fathers the drops of dew? From whose womb comes the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens when the waters become hard as stone, when the surface of the deep is frozen?” (Job 38:28-30).
The most important thing the Bible seems to say about God is about his love, his power, his might, and his everlasting nature. Over and over, we have stories about God as master and protector, who not only created this world but had enough care and mercy that he rescued and redeemed his people in various ways, ultimately sending his son, Jesus, as their path to salvation.
In Revelation 21:6, God calls himself “the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.”
The Bible also gives us various names for God that describe aspects of his nature: El Shaddai (Lord God Almighty), El Elyon (God Most High), Adonai (Lord, Master), El Roi (God Who Sees Me), Jehovah Rapha (God Who Heals), and many more.
In Psalm 68:5, God is called “a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows.”
Isaiah 40:28 says God is “the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.”
James 1:17 refers to God as “the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
And in Ephesians 4:6, we’re reminded God is “Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
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What Does the Bible Say about Jesus?
Similarly, the Bible has a lot to say about who Jesus is. We know Jesus is the Christ, the promised and long-awaited Messiah, and the Son of God. The Gospel accounts tell how he was born a baby to a virgin mother impregnated by the Holy Spirit. After he grew to adulthood, he taught, healed, and did many miracles before he was arrested and crucified. Three days later, he rose from the dead and taught the apostles for 40 days until he ascended to heaven, promising to come again to judge the living and the dead.
But there are other descriptors in Scripture that help us understand Jesus.
In John 6:35, Jesus calls himself the Bread of Life, noting, “Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
In Isaiah, the prophet calls him “Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 5:19), “Immanuel,” which means “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14), and “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
In Luke 9:35, God calls Jesus “my Son, whom I have chosen.” Other translations of that verse use “beloved Son” (NKJV).
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Are God and Jesus the Same?
In one sense, God and Jesus are “the same” in that they comprise the Triune God, a three-in-one mystery. In another sense, they are separate entities, three separate co-equal, co-eternal people comprising the one Almighty God. It does get confusing — at times we say “God” meaning the Triune God, and at other times we might say “God” meaning the Father. Jesus is part of God, and the Father is part of God, but Jesus and the Father are not the same people.
Besides the trinity knot, triquetra, another helpful analogy might be thinking of the Triune God as a person comprising body, mind, and spirit. They work together and are “one,” yet sometimes the body works on its own accord. For example, our heart beats on its own without us needing to think about it. Some people use analogies like water to try to explain the trinitarian nature of God, as water can be ice, liquid, and vapor, but most people reject this analogy as flawed because water cannot be all three at once (while God is Father, Son, and Spirit all at the same time).
There might not be a perfect way to explain it in a way that makes sense to the human mind, but we do know Scripture is clear that God comprises all three.
Jesus said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). And later, Jesus said, “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves” (John 14:10-11).
Still later, Jesus said, “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father — the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father — he will testify about me” (John 15:26).
Matthew 3 depicts a vivid visual of the three parts of God coming together as one at Jesus’s baptism, stating, “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:16-17).
Other verses distinctly mention the interworking of the three persons of God as God-Together. For instance, 2 Corinthians 13:14 blesses the reader, stating, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” And 1 Peter 1:2 bids well wishes to those chosen “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood.”
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What Makes Jesus Separate or Unique from God?
One of the best ways to understand what makes Jesus separate or unique from God comes in the beginning of the Gospel of John. John explains that the Word was in the beginning, both with and of God. But then he says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
That sums up the difference — Jesus was born a man and lived among us, flesh and blood.
What Does This Mean for Our Faith?
What this means for our faith is that in Jesus we have a piece of the collective, Triune God that shares something with us: humanity. Jesus is our intermediary with the Father, our high priest, and he is the way to salvation. At the same time, he is our head, and we the church are his body. The Holy Spirit was sent by God to live within us and help us in the absence of our priest, Jesus.
We don’t have to fully understand how this works. But we need to trust that God is, was, and always will be, that God is also our Father and protector, that God sent his Son Jesus to show us the way, and that the Spirit lives in us to help it all come together.
As Hebrews 11:6 reminds us, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
So whether you pray to Jesus, God, or Holy Spirit, whether you think of God as three separate and distinct people or not, just know: God is the Great I Am (Exodus 3:14). He is three in one, and his way is perfect, true, and right.
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Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at jessicabrodie.com. She has a weekly YouTube devotional, too. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and more. She’s also produced a free eBook, A God-Centered Life: 10 Faith-Based Practices When You’re Feeling Anxious, Grumpy, or Stressed.